One day lying underneath an oak tree I visit I noticed just how many broken branches it had. All up the length of it’s trunk are the semi rotten stumps of what must have broken a long time ago. There are also some huge limbs missing and others which have bits and pieces broken off. Near the top one big branch has crashed over into another, it looks like it still growing, just sideways.


As I noticed all this I realised it was trying to tell me something.

As I approach this tree do I see all the broken bits?

No. I see a magnificent specimen, a wonderful old oak who has lived on this earth far longer than I have and who will no doubt go on long after I have gone. I see it’s splendour, it’s grandeur, it’s presence. What I do not see is the broken, bashed and battered bits.

The messages flow:

We can have lots of broken and damaged bits and still be splendid.

What we focus on is what we see.

Our presence is not dependant on being whole.

Perfection is not what makes us beautiful.


This oak tree brings me hope, it tells me that it is not the scarred, broken or damaged bits that define me, unless I want them too. I can choose. I can walk around showing you all my wounds, tell the tales of how damaged I have been, how broken and hurt and this is what you will see. I can limp along as a survivor or victim and have the world see me as such. I can have you make allowances for me and feel sorry for me; poor, poor me.

I have a recording of a talk given by Caroline Myss called “Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can.” It’s not always easy listening but if we want to change we need to face the uncomfortable stuff.

She says we use our broken bits as a currency, a language she calls woundology. When we lead with our wounds, we are defining and presenting ourselves in the world as such and, according to her, preventing ourselves from moving on.

I got stuck in the “poor me’s” for years, I still can sometimes. It’s a comfortable place for me, a way to interact, manipulate, avoid and control my environment and other people around me. It’s not always pleasant but it is a place I know.

“Oh it’s ok Mairi, sorry I asked, I forgot, poor you.”

These are sometimes called secondary gains, the things we get, the compensations there are from staying stuck in our issues and our wounds. Secondary gains can be one of the major things that holds us back from changing and until we are courageous enough to face them we may never understand why we can’t move on from where we are.

I don’t want to be like that any more. I want to grow, I don’t want wound labels to define who I am. I want to be like the oak I want to focus on the amazing, beautiful human being that I AM.

What are you showing the world, your beauty or your wounds?



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About the Author: Mairi

Radical Self Care Coach, supporting you to create a calmer, simpler, more deeply connected life where you take better care of yourself and our planet.

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